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Stress, Anxiety, Pollution: How Traffic Jam Impacts Health

Health Impact of Traffic Jam
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Health Impact of Traffic Jam

Traffic congestion is a significant issue in urban areas. Traffic noise and traffic-related air pollutants co-exist in the traffic environment. Polluted air from road transport vehicles contributes significantly to air quality problems through vehicle emissions, which have various harmful impacts on public health.

Traffic and its allied effects can have various adverse health consequences. There is evidence which has confirmed that exposure to traffic noise significantly increases the risk for heart-related diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc. Also, traffic noise can induce adverse effects on the nervous system, leading to the increasing levels of anxiety, irritation, and sleeplessness.

Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Twofold higher risk of Type 2 diabetes is also observed for people exposed to intense traffic. Long-term exposure to particulate matter increases type two diabetes risk in the general population, as does living close to a major road. Also, particulate matter and the increase in oxidative stress have ill-effects on the respiratory system. Besides, traffic noise is significantly associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and can affect the hormonal and digestive system.

The public health impacts of traffic during periods of congestion are associated with early deaths. Road traffic noise also has been shown to increase the short-term risk of death from specific diseases of the cardiovascular, respiratory, and hormonal systems.

Moreover, people who live in areas with a higher vehicular burden and face most traffic stress also have the lower health status and higher depressive symptoms that people living in areas with less traffic. These findings suggest that traffic stress may represent an important factor that influences the well-being of urban populations.

Adrenaline Rush and Other Health Issues

Interestingly, studies have also shown that the level of blood adrenaline hormone increases in heavy-traffic compared with during low-traffic conditions. Also, the ability to estimate distance and recognition is reduced due to high-traffic compared to during low-traffic conditions. The increase of the adrenaline during driving on heavy-traffic days can lead to stress because ones accuracy and judgment may be reduced.

Tips to Make Travel Less Stressful

Since we cannot avoid the commute, we need to work around it and make the trip an enjoyable one or at least less stressful.

  1. Try different timings instead of rush hours.
  2. The most important reason we stress out in traffic is that we fear to get late to work. It is better to start a little early since delays increase stress and irritation. It further disturbs us and may affect the rest of the day at work in an imperceptible manner.
  3. If you can, you should have a co-passenger, so try opting for car-pooling with any of your friends or colleagues who stay nearby.
  4. We generally tend to brood over unpleasant issues either related to work or home sitting idle in the vehicle.
  5. In contrast, you should use this time as the precious ‘me-time.’ Arrange for a separate playlist which plays soothing music. Listening to music or a book, we get distracted, and this helps us remain calm.
  6. Meditation early in the morning helps prepare you for the rest of the day, so it does for the commute. Have a healthy complete breakfast; a hungry person gets angrier than a person who isn’t. Try to avoid arguments before leaving home or office, especially, if you are going to drive.

Such small changes in our daily life may help considerably in dealing with the ill-effects and the adverse health impact of traffic jam on our physical and mental well-being.